Wales ended injury-hit autumn campaign with victory over Australia
Wayne Pivac has praised Wales’ young guns after the “toughest” autumn campaign ended with a third successive victory over Australia
Despite losing numerous players to injury – before and during the Autumn Nations Series – Wales posted wins against the Wallabies and Fiji as squad depth was tested like rarely before.
Pivac used 39 players across three games, and it was the continued emergence of prospects like Taine Basham, Christ Tshiunza and Ben Carter that proved Wales’ headline act.
Given the extent of Wales’ casualty count, two victories and a narrow loss to world champions South Africa following a comprehensive reversal against New Zealand represents a reasonable return.
And with 11 weeks to go before Wales launch their Six Nations title defence by facing in-form Ireland, some reinforcements could be on the way.
Captain Alun Wyn Jones looks likely to miss the whole tournament, and while several of Jones’ fellow British and Irish Lions are also currently sidelined, Pivac will be hopeful that some might be ready for Dublin on February 5.
“It is just a credit to all those young men out there,” Pivac said, after Rhys Priestland sunk Australia 29-28 with the game’s final kick.
“Ben Carter came on at about 15 minute (after Adam Beard went off) and had to call the lineouts. Just a marvellous job.
“Christ going on… Again, he throws himself about, he is full of energy. By 19 years of age, what an exciting young talent.
“Taine Basham, who came in after the summer where he was a bit undercooked, he came in and made four starts and played well.
“There are so many good stories here in terms of the development side of things. It sounds like I am just harping on down that track, but it is factual.
“Individually, there have been some very good performances. We are really pleased, and the depth is building.
“But you have got some serious international talent and experience that is missing at the moment. When those boys are available and at the peak of their powers, some of them are some of the best in the world.
“We wish those guys a speedy recovery from their injuries, and hopefully we will get a number of them back into club football soon and they can get the required rugby under their belt to hit the Six Nations running.”
Given autumn performances across the board, it is safe to assume that Wales will not be ranked among the main Six Nations title contenders after Ireland and France toppled New Zealand, while England enjoyed a 100 per record that included them beating South Africa.
But with three Six Nations game in Cardiff – including against France – accompanying trips to Dublin and Twickenham, Wales will relish tackling the challenge head-on.
Pivac added: “Two wins from four in what is probably the toughest autumn we have faced to date, with the squad that we’ve faced it with, I am really proud of the group and the effort they have put in week in, week out behind the scenes.
“Everyone has to deal with Covid, and we had a couple of scares in the camp. It has been a difficult time.
“Development has been the key – it has been forced upon us in a lot of areas and we’ve gone a bit deeper than we would have liked to – but we have learnt a lot about players each week.”